BOOKS/Alvena Bieri

Reason Mounts a Defense

Al Gore’s new book, The Assault on Reason (Penguin Press, 2007) is an argument in favor of returning to the great old value of Reason -- with a capital R -- in public and political life.

I was interested to learn that the former vice president, author of An Inconvenient Truth, which recently was cited in earning him the Nobel Peace Prize, now lives in Nashville, is on the board of Apple Computer and is president of Current TV, a cable and satellite TV nonfiction network for young people. Maybe he is trying to change the type of TV Americans are used to because that is where he starts with his analysis of what is wrong with the nation today.

Gore writes that Americans are watching too much TV, and it is giving them skewed picture of the world. And just watching gives them little chance to reply or set up a dialogue on important issues.

For the most part, he writes, TV, including the news, presents an active picture of violence. Maybe the exception is PBS. But even the Weather Channel takes pride in its feature called “Storm Stories,” which is pretty wild.

And the main channels feature one violent story after another. So the average viewer sees news as violent, whether it’s CNN’s several-night coverage of dogfighting or the ongoing reports of arrests of celebrities for drug problems. Stories like this detract from even more important issues, Gore writes.

He wants people to return to Reason in TV watching and in the whole political practices. His definition of Reason is the faith that free people can debate logically on what faces them, using their minds instead of following the dictatorial leads of politicians.

I bet he had all the assistants he credits busy looking up quotations, and I did too, just from the encyclopedia. The Enlightenment in Europe in the 1600s and 1700s was also called the Age of Reason. Among its most famous figures were Locke and Francis Bacon in England.

On this side of the Atlantic leading up to the American Revolution many leaders were influenced by these ideas, notably Thomas Jefferson. The point was and is that people need to think for themselves, using scientific evidence, hard as that may be.

In summary, Gore wants a more open society, not based on fear, which is the enemy of Reason -- and good political leadership from the top down, including hope for the future.

As the Bible says, “Where there is no vision the people perish.”

Contact Alvena Bieri, 2023 W. 11th Ave, Stillwater OK 74074 or email

From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2007

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